Back in London

I hadn’t been in London in almost a decade and it has long been one of my favorite places in the world (okay, I haven’t traveled that much, but I read an awful lot!) Regardless, I am a died-in-the-Shetland-wool Anglophile and coming to the United Kingdom always feels like I am coming home. This was going to be a short trip, only a few days in London before heading off to Barcelona and Geneva. My first visit to London was as a young adolescent, on a musical excursion with my French Horn instructor and his wife, the late Rudy Tate. That trip has since been categorized in my memory as having visited Elizabethan England with jaunts to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Hanford Court, and similar Renaissance points. My second visit, ten years ago, was a promise I made to myself; that if I ever got a Master’s degree, I would reward myself with a return to my beloved England. That trip was my journey through Roman England; a week in York, a week in Bath and neighboring Wells, and a week in London where much time was spent in the British Museum. Now I get to return to my artistic roots and explore the multiple fabulous museums and eat through the many noted restaurants…

Upon our arrival, with hunger pangs calling, Harrods beckoned and a platter of Irish oysters and a glass of Muscadet hit the spot nicely. I had only been to Harrods on my first visit (before the Fayeds bought it) and I was unprepared for the bounty of the food court. That is one very, very impressive food court and I am indeed fortunate that it is just around the corner from the hotel.

Shortly thereafter, my oldest friend in the world, Lance, arrived to play London host. He has lived here for ten years and our friendship dates back to my Junior High School days. We walked and wandered and I felt completely invigorated. I also got my first museum fix, the County Hall Gallery which mostly showcased the world of Salvador Dalí. Oddly displayed in a rather dark gallery (black walls), what was sadly disappointing was the basement of Picasso with its dirty walls. Adjacent to the Gallery was the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel that is new since my last visit. Great fun and some wonderful views despite the drizzle.

Evening drew nigh and my first pub crawl commenced; The Lamb and The Flag, reputed to be one of the oldest in London and where Dickens is known to have had a nip or two, De Hems, a Dutch pub, and Waxy O’Connor’s, easily one of the largest and most impressive Irish pubs I’ve ever seen.  Over our second or third drink, Lance asked me what I wanted for dinner and was there anything special I was hoping to eat while in London… I mentioned Fergus Henderson’s altar to offal, St. John, but was worried my school chum might not be up to a culinary challenge. “Oh, that place has great marrow bones!” Lance exclaimed. What a darling friend I had.

At St. John, we shared a 2004 Cornas Rhone and ordered a marrow bone starter as well as a snail and oakleaf salad. Going for the most unusual entrées, we shared chitterlins with turnips and garlic as well as ox heart with chips. Lance is not a huge snail fan but agreed this preparation was acceptable. I thought they were more than exceptional. The marrow bones were easily the best I have ever had and I was quite charmed with the accompaniment of capers, freshly chopped parsley, and sliced onions. Service included a scoop of sea salt and with the house-made grilled bread, it was tempting to order a second platter. The chitterlins was the more flavorful of the two entrées but both were satisfying to a fault. For dessert, we shared a buttermilk panna cotta with prunes and a chocolate terrine with coffee ice cream. Neither dessert thrilled (although the coffee ice cream was pretty tasty). Exiting the restaurant, one of the staff was sitting near the exit to work on some paperwork and a platter of madeleines sat in front of him. “Except that the menu said there was a fifteen-minute preparation time for those (it was well past 11:00 p.m.), I would have ordered those,” I told Lance as we were leaving. Whomever that lovely employee was that was sitting here, he offered me a warm token which was eagerly cobbled as we entered my first London rain and floated back to the hotel, full of the warmth of great friendship and great food.

St. John’s
St John (Farringdon) on Urbanspoon

Lamb & Flag
Lamb & Flag on Urbanspoon

deHems
De Hems on Urbanspoon

Waxy O’Connors
Waxy O'Connors on Urbanspoon

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